I have had to say good-bye to more people then I care to count.
Family members passing. Friends I have made while traveling. Co-workers I knew for years. Lovers that no longer aligned with who I was.
I have moved numerous times, changing cities like I change my underwear. As a result, I’ve had to face the dreaded “goodbye” so many times, it now seems as normal as breathing.
Even though I have a self-proclaimed side profession of being a strategic and successful Good-Byer, the process never seems to get any easier.
Recently, I spent five months living abroad in India, and as my time came to an end, I was again faced with the goodbye process. I had to say “see ya later” to the people who had become my family over the last few months. I had to bid farewell to the apartment that housed my emotions as I lived away from family and friends for so long. I had to say “adiós” to the cats I had fed since they were kittens. I had to wave goodnight to my favorite gate guard one last time.
To say the least, my heart was feeling a little fragile.
The reality is, we all have to say goodbye to people, animals, homes, locations, or experiences. From the resplendent to the mundane, departures are an inevitable part of our lives. From the deep connections we make to those brief yet powerful interactions that maybe only lasted a few moments, we simply can’t escape this.
What I have found is that there is no perfect way to execute a goodbye, and there is definitely no way to halt the feelings that accompany them.
What we can do is shift our perspective to help embrace the process instead of struggling through it.
Here are a few ways to emotionally survive the goodbye process:
1. Feel like sh*t.
If you’ve read as many self-help books as I have, you probably have been operating under the impression that feeling like sh*t is not allowed.
According to some self-help gurus, we should all be running around with a smile on our faces 24/7, regardless of what is happening. While in theory that sounds amazing, it simply doesn’t work. You can put flowers on top of manure to try to make it look pretty, but the truth is, it still smells like sh*t. In my experience, when we allow ourselves to feel the sadness (or whatever other feelings come up), we recover much faster.
Emotions are our friends, and they are there for a reason—don’t run from them.
2. Appreciate the interaction.
When we initiate the goodbye process, we tend to focus on the emptiness and sadness we’re left after we depart. While this is a normal process and can serve a purpose, it doesn’t serve us if we stay there.
Every interaction—whether perceived as good or bad—can be looked at in a way that benefits us.
Once you’ve allowed the sad feelings to pass, shift your perspective to how the interaction with the person or place served you. For example, my time in India allowed me to grow internally in more ways then I could have ever imagined. I now look back on that experience and smile, knowing I will never be the same again.
Ask yourself, “How did the experience serve me?”
3. Reach out to friends and family.
This is a given, but it’s sometimes neglected.
If you’re anything like me, I don’t like to bother other people with my problems. However, the issue with that is we then tend to sit with our feelings longer than needed, prolonging the goodbye process.
Surrounding ourselves with friends and family can help us feel heard and validated. Find people who won’t necessarily give you advice, but will just offer a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen as emotions come up.
4. Direct your energy.
Sometimes, the goodbye process can leave us with a lot of emotional energy that we don’t know what to do with. But we can choose to utilize this powerful energy toward doing something we love. Perhaps that is going to the gym, painting a picture, going on a trip, spending time in nature, or watching your favorite movie.
Use this time to dive into something that will bring you happiness or positive reflection. Personally, I like to go to the gym, as working out gives me a sense of control when my environment is changing or not going as planned. But we all cope differently—so do what’s right for you.
5. Lastly, be kind to yourself.
Saying goodbye can either invoke a sense of relief or a sense of emptiness. Take this time to tune into what you’re feeling and allow the process to unfold.
Author: Jennifer Sinclair
Editor: Callie Rushton